I recently guided a national group of evangelical leaders to the Arizona-Mexico border. The visit was momentous and timely for many reasons. As leaders with influence, board members of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and Neighborhood Ministries, the ripples of this border perspective could reach far and wide.
It is important for this group of compassionate and active people to see the literal ground zero of border enforcement, resulting in the every day loss of human life and dignity. "There is something powerful in seeing," writes Crissy Brooks, board member of CCDA. "When it came to concern for undocumented immigrants, some of us had never looked before, some of us had our eyes on other things, and some of us were seeing the situation in a new light. Whatever the case, after our trip together, we all see the issue of immigration differently than we did before."
With Easter just passing, it reminds me that we are disciples on a long road of faith. On this journey we don't always see the face of Jesus at first glance, as we learn from Luke 24 when the arisen Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus, but he was not recognized. In fact, sometimes we need to break bread with this stranger and see their scars in order to open our eyes and hearts.
This trip to the border is even more significant because seeing and understanding must move us to action. Four years ago, I escorted an ABC News crew on a humanitarian patrol to look for migrants in distress in the cruel desert of southern Arizona. The news story was used to spark controversy, portraying me as a lone evangelical woman who claims that Jesus would be walking these migrant trails. It developed into a bigger story revealing the silence and stillness of key evangelical actors on a crucial issue. Yet after this visit, I know I am not alone in this calling.
Today, when comprehensive immigration reform is again on the political front burner, we are called to stand with our immigrant neighbors and fellow church members. The question now, as Crissy states, is "How can we not see?" Even more, I urge that we recognize the face of Jesus in this moment and, despite the controversy, be moved to walk with him, no longer as a stranger.
Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform.